The One Question About College I Still Need To Answer

January 1st was the mark of the New Year, a new beginning; it also marks the end of the college application season (at least for the majority of schools). Seniors everywhere are going into the final stretch, extending their hands out, waving and saying adios to college apps!
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This is part of our monthly series 'Mission: Accepted,' in partnership with Minds Matter, which chronicles the lives of four students as they apply for college in their senior year.

First of all, happy holidays everyone! January 1st was the mark of the New Year, a new beginning; it also marks the end of the college application season (at least for the majority of schools). Seniors everywhere are going into the final stretch, extending their hands out, waving and saying adios to college apps!

I just want to take this time to update you on a few things from my last blog post.

If before I never knew what stress was, I have definitely learned what it is these past few months. Juggling responsibilities in school as the Associated Student Body (ASB) president, with eight classes and soccer, work as an intern at a law firm, chores around the house, college applications and scholarships to apply to and writing blogs for The Huffington Post (which is pretty amazing!) has called for a lot of diligence and perseverance on my part, but I'm still alive thankfully. I really owe a lot to Minds Matter of Los Angeles, the program that has propelled me forward in realizing my dream of being the first in my family to attend and graduate from college.

I was able to attend summer programs for high school students the past two summers, at George Washington University and Harvard. These experiences have been an incredible opportunity for me to travel, meet other students from around the world and get a better sense for college academic expectations. I'm realizing my dream of being the first in my family to attend and graduate from college.

I'm still finishing applications for schools due the middle of January but I'm almost done and soon will also be extending my hand, waving and saying adios like the others. If the green checks on the Common Application had sounds, they would sound like music to my ears. I love seeing the green checks because they mean that I am one step closer to fulfilling my dreams and aspirations.

Apart from Minds Matter, I am also a member of the QuestBridge network. QuestBridge is another non-profit organization that also targets high achieving students from low-income families to provide more educational and life opportunities. I became a finalist under the QuestBridge National College Match program, where students can rank partner colleges with the possibility of being matched with a full scholarship. I decided to opt out of the ranking process and instead forward my application to various colleges on my college list (which still seems like too many when I really think about it). There are many different Facebook groups for the QuestBridge finalists and non-finalists this year and it is amazing to see the charisma and level of excitement that my fellow peers from around the world display. I love watching their interactions because everybody is just so interesting and inspiring in their own ways! Shout out to the Questies! (As we like to call ourselves)

Speaking of colleges on my list, I heard back from Harvard on my Restrictive Early Action application. They said that they would send the decision via email at 3:00 p.m. EST (12 p.m. PST) on the 15th of December. It was a school day, a Friday, and it so happened to be the 13th (go figure). Obviously, I was pretty nervous. The entire senior class was excited for me and all gathered around me as I constantly refreshed my email starting at 12:00 p.m. I was glad that I had such a great support group there with me. It was 12:15 p.m. and no response. At approximately 12:26 p.m., the Harvard email came in, and as I opened the long-awaited email, a wave of anxiety took over. I read the email and my decision was: deferred. I was relieved at the decision, but also a little disappointed. I had gotten enough consideration that I was not denied right then and there, but now I am placed in the regular application pool and will find out on March 27 what my new decision will be.

The college application process is almost over, but there is still one more important question that I have to answer: how will I pay for my school tuition and fees?

Imagine not being able to afford an education? Sure, there are still plenty of opportunities available without an education but the spectrum is very limited. I attended St. Cecilia Middle School, a private, Catholic school since I was in kindergarten. I was a student at St. Cecilia until I graduated from the 8th grade.

I wasn't supposed to graduate at St. Cecilia. Actually, I wasn't even supposed to be attending my last year.

My mother had recently gotten surgery due to a work-related injury and she was bedridden for almost a year, and didn't go to work. Her job paid her for the first few months during her time off, but most of that money was used to pay the medical bills. My brother didn't work and didn't want to work, putting unnecessary stress on my mother. My mother couldn't pay for the tuition for my last year at St. Cecilia, meaning that I would have to go to public school for the first time and be the "new kid" in a new school. Over the years, I had excelled academically at St. Cecilia, becoming one of the top three students from my class. The principal knew me pretty well and was very understandable of my situation and she provided me with the greatest gift I could ask for -- the gift of education. I completed my 8th grade year free of charge and as a result, my studies have become a priority. This experience afforded me the chance to appreciate school and has been vital to my academic growth.

Coming from a low-income family, my family does not have the resources to pay for college. Sometimes it is a struggle to pay my high school tuition and occasionally putting food on the table. Nevertheless, my mother has always been supportive of me and of my studies, often reminding me of how my education will be the path for me to make my own decisions, to have more independence and will lead to more opportunities in life. My mother is the one who instilled in me the importance of education, which is why I value education so much. I want to attend a college that will offer me the most financial benefits so that I can support my mother in this way.

I completed the CSS Profile earlier in the year as I applied early to private schools. The Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is now open and I once I complete it, I will see how much money I can receive that will go towards my college education. I am also on the hunt for any scholarship that I can apply to in hopes of earning even more money to go towards my college education.

I'm still awaiting responses from other schools that I've applied to (Princeton, Stanford, Claremont Mckenna, Pomona College, Morehouse). After I receive all decisions around late March/early April, I will be able to make a choice for my future -- which institution I want to attend in the fall of 2014 to further my education, taking into heavy consideration the financial aid packages. This is it -- the final stretch, the 4th quarter, the last inning, the season finale of the college applications.

Now it's just a waiting game.

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